The first refugees held at Australia’s offshore detention centers began their journey to the U.S. Sunday as part of deal struck last November between the Australian government and then-President Barack Obama.
Obama agreed to take 1,250 refugees indefinitely held at detention centers. President Donald Trump reportedly lashed out at Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during their first phone conversation in January, calling it “the worst deal ever.”
Trump still pledged to honor the agreement, which is now being implemented by Australia.
The Refugee Action Coalition told Reuters that 22 male migrants had been transferred to Port Moresby Sunday night where they will await a Wednesday flight to the U.S.
“They’re happy they’re going, and they never want to hear about Australia again,” refugee advocate Ian Rintoul told Reuters.
Turnbull confirmed that about 25 inmates will be shipped off as he thanked Trump for his cooperation. The prime minister added that the migrants will have to go through a vetting process, and the U.S. ultimately decides who it lets in.
“There will be about 25 from both Manus and Nauru [that] will be going to the United States and I just want to thank again President Trump for continuing with that arrangement,” Turnbull said in a statement Wednesday.
The islands where the migrants will be transferred from have been criticized by the United Nations for their harsh living conditions. (RELATED: The Islands Australia Is Sending Its Refugees From Are Plagued By Scandals)
Rod St. George, a former guard at the Manaus center, told The Independent in a 2013 interview that six men were raped by fellow detainees in the men-only camp. Others were forced to sew their lips together by other inmates. One man reportedly punctured his eardrum after having solvent poured into his ear.
St. George said guards ignored what was going on and allowed attackers and victims to live side by side.
“I’ve never seen human beings so destitute, so helpless and so hopeless,” St. George told The Independent. “In Australia, the facility couldn’t even serve as a dog kennel. The owners would be jailed.”
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